Inca Trail & Machu Picchu
I`ve no idea where to start with this blog - the Inca Trail was just amazing, perfectly topped off by the awesome Machu Picchu.
Anyway, it all started on a cold Wednesday morning last week at 5:30am when we were picked up by Peru Treks and introduced to our guides Washington (Washi) and Armadeo. We were part of a group of 16 tourists, all in our twenties, except for two 50 year olds (plus 20 porters, 2 chefs and 2 guides). We reached KM 82 (our starting point) about 10am and were on our way by 10:30, laden down with our backpacks, sleeping bags and foam mattresses. We saw our first Inca ruin that morning (Ilactapata) where Washi told us the history of the Inca Trail. The first day is the "Easy Day" apparently but the uphill parts were pretty tricky, especially in the sweltering heat. However, we covered the 12km in about 4 and a half hours, which doesn`t seem too bad considering it was all up and down....but then again we were being passed out every few minutes by running porters carrying bagpacks twice their size! The camp (Wayllabamba at 3,100m/10,137ft) and tents were all set up when we arrived which was good as we could just about manage to collapse into bed, narrowly avoiding collapsing into the holes in the ground that served as toilets.
Woken at 5:20am by Armadeo with a cup of coca tea we were on the road again by 6:45am. The second day is regarded as the toughest although the distance is the same (12km) as the trail winds its way steeply up to Dead Woman`s Pass (4,200m). This is where the group split in two - half flew up the pass while the rest were suffering with altitude sickness. You can guess which group Mel was in when she describes Thursday as her own Personal Day of Hell. Also, it`ll explain why there aren`t many photos of the 2 of us together! Thankfully the sun was not out so the hike up (for me at least) wasn`t too bad and the views from the pass were amazing. It was all downhill to camp at Pacamayo (3,500m/11,480ft) where we`re rewarded at dinner with some Pisco sour drinks (strong stuff, even put hair on mel and my chests!). To give you some idea of how we much we were roughing it, the biggest treat was the fact that there were sit-down toilets in the camp...
On the third day (Friday) the coca tea at 5:20am again signalled that it was time to haul ass. We`d two passes to get to that day so it was uphill all the way to the second pass at 3,950m/12,916ft. Then it was downhill on steep steps to Sayaqmarka ruins, with only 8 of us managing the 99 steps up to the complex. After a very rushed lunch it was uphill most of the way to the third and final pass (3,670m/12,00ft). From here we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu mountain and gorgeous views of snow capped mountains with mists swirling around sheer peaks. After the pass, it was downhill all the way, which was pretty tough on the ole knees, passing through two Inca tunnels on the way. The option was given to go to another Inca complex or go directly to camp - only 5 of us made it to the ruins! It seemed most of the group had reached their hiking limit. The last camp had the luxury of hot showers, our first ones in 3 days, and the sounds coming from the showers was something out of a Herbal Essences ad! With the majority of the hiking completed, the group is rewarded with cake and hot sangria before being advised to go to bed asap as we`d a 3:45am wake up call!
Even before the porter came around, Mel & I were awoken by the sound of lashing rain on our tent. At 5am the group were gathered in our wet gear in the dark, waiting for the check point to open and our final walk to Machu Picchu. It took about 2 hours walking up and down precariously wet Inca steps before we reached the Sun Gate, the entrance 300m above Machu Picchu. Yeah, Sun Gate my arse! The guide pointed to the swirling mist and rain clouds and promised us that Machu Picchu was "there somewhere". We got down at 7:30am, took the obligatory shot of the group in front of the ruins (well, hazy rain more like it) and, after the English girls had applied their make-up (despite not even remembering wet gear or plasters, plus 3 days without a shower, they couldn`t forget the mascara?!) we were then given a tour, visiting the terraces, the Sun Temple, the Palace and the Sun Dial. Thankfully, the weather picked up and by mid morning we were basking in sunshine. Mel and I wandered around for about 5 hours in total and, while Mel headed down to the Hot Springs in Aguas Calientes for some much deserved relaxation time, I headed back up to the Sun Gate to check out the view we should`ve seen that morning. And yes, it was worth it!
Until next time, enjoy the photos.